When Content Is Worth A Fee

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I happened across a comment from Steve Rubel about considering dropping his subscription to WSJ.com within a day of renewing mine. We subscribe to the print edition at home and have been online subs since pretty close to launch. (I’d be happier if it came with two log-ons.)
Steve included WSJ.com in a list of services he had already dropped — Audible, Webshots Premium — or was thinking about dropping — Typepad, Backpack. His reasoning: “I spend much more time reading blogs than I do the Wall Street Journal Online, so I am considering letting my subscription lapse. The Journal put the nail in their own coffin by making the best chunks of their content available for free for bloggers.”
If Steve thinks those few pieces are the best of the paper and the site — and if he truly thinks that’s all he needs — then the subscription ($49 for print subs, $99 for online only) isn’t worth it to him. But I know that as good as those pieces are they aren’t all that I need or want or can get from the Journal. I wondered if that would be the case after the Journal started shipping a few links a day and I got my answer when I thought about what I’d be missing — search, research, transcripts, online-only editorial content and other material. (We also get access to Barron’s online; taking that out of the equation might cause me to think twice next time.)
That’s part of the risk the Online Journal took — that potential new subscribers would be intrigued by what remained behind the wall and that more current subs would see value beyond the freebies than those whose needs are sated.
I asked Gordon Crovitz, president of Dow Jones Electronic Publishing, how the effort was going. He says the company has been “very pleased” with the way the links have been received by bloggers. As for Steve’s contention that the links are a nail in the coffin: “I can’t imagine anyone giving up an Wall Street Journal Online subscription to rely on the very few articles we make available for free. To use a print analogy, subscribers to the print Journal would not be happy relying on that part of page one that they can read for free in a news vending machine.”

Earnings: WSJ Online Subs Up 8.8 Percent Over 2Q04; Electronic Publishing Outearns Print

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